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Difficulties in carrying out duties under quarantine laws: PHIs note lack of power

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Public health inspectors (PHIs) are yet to receive necessary powers under the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance to conduct their official duties, especially after the re-opening of the country for economic activities, The Morning learnt.

The PHI’s Union raised these concerns last month and made a request to the Ministry of Health to provide them with necessary legal powers to conduct their duties without any hindrance. However, the Ministry is yet to respond to the request, The Morning further learnt.

The PHIs last month warned of trade union (TU) action on several demands including giving more powers to them, but they withdrew the action after a discussion with Ministry officials.

Speaking to The Morning, PHI’s Union Treasurer D.Y.S.R.R. Mudalige stressed that it was difficult to take some legal action under the Quarantine Ordinance against those who violate Covid-19 guidelines due to the lack of powers given to them.

“At present, we are somehow taking legal action against those who violate the guidelines under different laws. But under the Quarantine Act (Ordinance), PHIs do not have powers to take legal actions,” he stressed, pointing out that therefore, issues crop up when filing cases directly under the Quarantine Ordinance.

In addition, Mudalige noted that PHIs are currently monitoring all industries that had been re-opened for economic activities to monitor if they are following the necessary health guidelines given by them.

“We saw some people not even wearing masks as they think since cases have not been reported for the last two weeks, the threat is no more. That is totally wrong. We should be vigilant at present as we do not know from where such a case would come out once again,” he explained.